Lemon Law Frequently Asked Questions

Goldsmith West is committed to helping you understand the important elements of your lemon law case. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked lemon law questions.

“Lemon law” is actually a system of laws, which protects consumers who buy or lease products that require an unreasonable number of repairs, too much down time, or that are unsafe.

Lemon law requires the manufacturer of the defective product to buy the product back or replace it — whichever option the consumer prefers.

The law entitles you to reimbursement of all money paid for your lemon, including down payments, monthly finance payments, any trade-in value the dealership received, taxes and licensing fees, and your lease or finance contract.

In the case of a replacement, the manufacturer must offer you a “substantially identical” motor vehicle, and pay all taxes and licensing fees. In either case, you are also entitled to reimbursement for additional damages, such as towing and repair costs.

Attorneys are not needed in all cases. If the manufacturer promptly offers to repurchase or replace your lemon, at your option, the manufacturer has complied with the law.

However, lemon laws can be convoluted and highly specific, and manufacturers rarely want to admit the new vehicle or product you purchased is defective. When a manufacturer or dealership won’t honor your claim, having a legal team behind you makes you impossible to ignore.

We have over a decade of experience working as defense counsel and managing consumer affairs in-house at automobile manufacturers. We know what causes lemon law cases, how they are resolved, and what motivates automakers. Our firm uses this inside experience and knowledge, as well as a network of personal relationships inside and outside of the industry to your advantage.

Yes. We handle lemon law cases on all types of motor vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs motorcycles, boats, and RVs. We also accept lemon law cases for costly consumer goods, such as appliances, TVs, pianos, and computers. Lemon law applies to all consumer products that are covered by a warranty, although the cost of the product may dictate small claims court jurisdiction, in which attorneys cannot make appearances on your behalf. If you have any questions about your product, feel free to contact us.

While some law firms may require fees or other payment, Goldsmith West takes cases with no upfront fees and on a contingency basis. This means we seek to recover our costs and fees from the manufacturer that is being sued. Win or lose, you will owe us no fees out of pocket.

You have a lemon if your vehicle has a substantial problem that is covered by a warranty, and has not been repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, or has spent too many days in the shop. Whether an issue is “substantial” or the repairs are “reasonable” is subject to legal argument, which is where your lawyer’s ability, knowledge, and experience comes into play. For additional information, read more here, or contact us for a free case evaluation.
Lemon law applies to any vehicle, as long as the problem was covered by a warranty. Warranties include the standard manufacturer’s warranty, powertrain warranties, the emissions warranty required by California law, and extended warranties, such as Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) warranties. There may be additional challenges to bringing a lemon law claim on a vehicle that has been purchased from a private party. If you have questions about such a case, please contact us for a free case evaluation.

Yes. Lemon law applies to leases, as well as purchases.

Lemon law applies to any issue beginning during the warranty, whether it is a three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty, a ten-year powertrain warranty, a two-year Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) extension to the original warranty, etc.

Furthermore, the warranty period may be extended for an issue that began during the warranty, but which the dealer failed to repair.

You may bring a lemon law case within four years of the date you knew or reasonably should have known that the product was a lemon. The deadline for filing a lemon case, known as the “statute of limitations”, can be subject to legal interpretation. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
There are no straightforward rules regarding timing of compensation. Unfortunately, it’s common for manufacturers to drag their feet. It is best to expect at least three months for a pre-litigation settlement, at least six months for a settlement during litigation, and at least one year for a case that goes to trial.

As an enforcement mechanism, California lemon law allows the court discretion to award up to two times the value of your damages as a civil penalty, in lemon law cases where the manufacturer’s violation was “willful.” This would be paid in addition to your “actual” damages.

Many lemon law cases have an uncertain outcome, but are still settled by compromise. These often result in a cash payment, but may also include features such as an extended warranty, manufacturer-supervised repair, or a credit toward the future purchase of a vehicle, as well as anything that can be creatively worked out between both sides.

Your car may legally be a lemon based on as few as two repair attempts. California’s Lemon Law provides a legal presumption that the car is a lemon if any of the following occur within the first 18 months or 18k miles on the odometer, whichever comes first:

  • A) Two or more repair attempts for a safety-related concern;
  • B) Four or more repair attempts for any substantial concern; OR
  • C) 30 total days in the shop by reason of repair attempts.

If your lemon law case meets any of these three standards, it is harder for the manufacturer to refute. However, you may have a valid claim even without these criteria.

While it doesn’t necessarily invalidate your lemon law case, it is best to present the vehicle for repair only to the manufacturer’s authorized dealerships. Doing otherwise may cause the defense to argue that an unauthorized repair facility’s actions contributed to the repair problem.

Repair orders are typically the most important pieces of evidence in a lemon law case. Any time you make a complaint, it is important to make sure that the vehicle is presented for a repair opportunity and a repair order is written.

In addition, it is important to ensure that repair orders accurately describe all of your complaints. Dealerships have been known to omit or inaccurately paraphrase complaints, which could affect your lemon law case.

It is best to keep copies of your repair records; however, if you have not kept copies, the dealership is required to produce them at your request.

Manufacturers frequently reject claims out of genuine error, or to test a consumer’s resolve. If you think you may have a claim, you should form your own opinion. Contact us today for a free evaluation.
Under California lemon law, you are not required to participate in arbitration. There may be advantages and disadvantages to doing so, however. We advise seeking counsel before making this decision, as it may have strategic implications on your claim. Contact us today for a free evaluation.
Strictly speaking, lemon laws impose obligations on manufacturers only, but the obligations include taking responsibility for their authorized repair facilities: the dealerships. There are also laws which implicate a dealership directly, such as for fraud or negligent repair. Contact us if you are unsure about the dealership’s role in your lemon law case.

Once we take your case, we do the heavy lifting. Your primary job is to give us all of the documents and facts. There will be additional participation needed if your case proceeds deep into litigation. Otherwise, having patience is your most important task.

If you have a valid lemon law claim, you do not lose your rights by selling or giving back your car. However, this may affect evidence in the case and the measure of your damages. It is best to seek legal advice before getting rid of your car.

(1) Case evaluation: We analyze your case and your desired outcomes.

(2) Negotiation/Litigation: We tailor a strategy — informally, or, if necessary, through the court — to educate the manufacturer about the merits of your claim.

(3) Resolution: Outcome is achieved by settlement, mediation, arbitration, or trial. We arrange payment of the proceeds and any other settlement or judgment details. Over 99% of cases end in settlement.

A lemon law case can have unique aspects that require highly specific advice. If you need more information or wish to discuss your case in-depth, please contact us for a free consultation.